Yeah, John McCain missed a lot of Senate floor votes last year. So when the League of Conservation Voters published its annual congressional scorecard this week, McCains score was a goose egg. Thats because LCVs scoring system rates missed votes as anti-environment.
In reaction to the scorecard, some cheap shots were fired claiming that McCain is a friend of special interests and polluters. As Barack Obama said in this weeks Texas debate, the silly season has arrived.
Lets put things into perspective. McCain didnt miss those votes because he hates the environment. He missed them because he was running a time-consuming presidential campaign against out-of-office GOP contenders who had high name recognition, lots of time on their hands, and all the money in the world.
As LCV noted in releasing its scorecard, missing votes is an occupational hazard for sitting members of Congress running for president. Sure, Obama and his rival Hillary Clinton made it to more floor votes, but each could key off the others schedule to prevent his or her opponent from gaining a political advantage. They showed up for the same votes on the scorecard and missed the same votes.
Last summer, McCains campaign had one foot in the grave. He spent a lot of time in New Hampshire, his second favorite state, to crawl back. Thanks to persistence and many lucky breaks, he threaded the needle and got to where he is today the presumptive nominee of a party whose leadership he has often fought on environmental issues.
Missing votes as a result of campaign demands is not an indicator of McCains position on the environment. To imply that they are is disingenuous.
For example, one of the scored Senate votes was an amendment to establish an independent commission to vet the Army Corps of Engineers porky water projects. McCain and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold offered the amendment, which is patterned after Corps reform legislation that McCain and Feingold have been pushing for some time.
So McCain missed the vote and was penalized for it, in the same way that Obama was penalized for voting against the amendment.
Over the last few years, McCain has voted to block oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, prohibit funding for new logging roads in the Tongass National Forest, and kill legislation that would have weakened motor vehicle fuel economy standards and stormwater cleanup requirements.
Thats hardly a voting record that a proud friend of polluters and special interests would compile.
Most importantly, at great political risk, he has pushed and prodded Congress to adopt firm limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Not only did he hold hearings and draft a bill with Joe Lieberman, he pressed for floor votes. He took colleagues from both sides of the aisle to the antipodes, exposing them to the real-world impacts of climate change and introducing them to serious scientists studying the problem.
It wont show up on the LCV scorecard, but thats the kind of legwork and dedication thats necessary to build congressional support, defeat the looming Inhofe filibuster, and get a climate bill passed into law.
So whoever is elected president in November whether its McCain, Obama, or the fast-fading Clinton that someone very likely will sign a reasonably strong climate bill into law.
Thats a state of affairs worth celebrating. For that, John McCain deserves a great deal of the credit.
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